This book is a solid introduction to Mountain Bike Training that is based on training science foundations and discipline-specific features (e.g., cross-country and marathon). Details and overviews of all basic areas of training methodology are presented: aspects of heart-rate-oriented training, periodization of training into different phases and advice on how to plan and evaluate your own training diary. Information and suggestions on strength training and stretching are accompanied by tips on optimal and performance-enhancing nutrition. The book finishes with descriptions of technique and mental training.
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Meyer & Meyer Sport
Mountain Bike Training
Great care has gone into the preparation of this book, but the accuracy of the information provided cannot be guaranteed. Neither the authors nor the publishers can be held responsible for any damage or injury resulting from following the advice contained herein.
Original Title: Mountainbiketraining für Anfänger und ProfisAachen: Meyer & Meyer 2012Translated by: Heather Ross
British Library Cataloguing in Publication DataA catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Mountain Bike Training2nd revised edition 2014Maidenhead: Meyer & Meyer Sport (UK) Ltd., 2014ISBN: 9781782553519
All rights reserved, especially the right to copy and distribute, including the translation rights. No part of this work may be reproduced—including by photocopy, microfilm or any other means–processed, stored electronically, copied or distributed in any form whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher.
© 2014 by Meyer & Meyer Sport (UK) Ltd.2nd revised edition 2014Aachen, Auckland, Beirut, Budapest, Cairo, Cape Town, Dubai, Hägendorf, Indianapolis, Maidenhead, Singapore, Sydney, Tehran, Wien Member of the WorldSport Publishers’ Association (WSPA)ISBN 9781782553519www.m-m-sports.comE-Mail: [email protected]
1.1 How to Use This Book
1.2 Developments in Mountain Biking
2 The Physiology and Anatomy of a Mountain Biker
2.1 From Beginner to Pro From a Physiological Perspective
2.1.1 Training Effects on the Heart, Circulation and Musculoskeletal System
2.2 Requirement Profiles for Individual Disciplines
2.2.3 Stage Races
2.2.6 Dual Slalom
2.2.8 Technical Races
3.1 Basic Principles of Training Theory
3.1.1 Description of Training Load
3.1.3 Mountain Bike Training Principles
3.1.4 Training Methodology
3.2 Training Zones
3.3 Heart Rate Training
3.4 Performance Testing
3.4.1 Lab Testing
3.4.2 Field Test
3.4.3 A Simple Test to Determine the Anaerobic Threshold
3.5 Periodization: The Training Year
3.5.1 Preparation Phase (PP)
3.5.2 Racing Phase (RP)
3.5.3 Transition Phase (TP)
3.5.4 Running Training Throughout the Year
3.5.5 MTB or Road Bike
3.6 Training Errors
3.7 Performance Catergories
3.8 Training Camps
3.9 SRM-PowerMeter: High-Tech Training
4 Strength Training for Mountain Bikers
4.2 Strength Training Rules
4.3 Strength Training in Practice
4.3.1 Weight Room
4.3.2 In the Gym or at Home
4.4 Strength Circuit
5 Functional Stretching
5.1 Why Stretch?
5.2 What does Stretching Achieve?
5.3 Stretching Program
5.4 Stretching on the Mountain Bike
6 Training Management
6.1 Be Your Own Coach
6.2 Your Own Training Plan
6.3 Training Plan Modifications
6.4 Training Diary
7.1 Fundamentals of Mountain-Bike-Specific Nutrition
7.2 Nutrition for the Different Training Phases
7.3 Pre-Race Nutrition
7.4 Nutrition During the Race
7.5 Post-Race Nutrition
7.6 Weight Loss for Bike Racing
7.7 Nutrition FAQs
8 Technique Training
8.1 The Importance of Technique Training
8.2 Choosing the Most Important Cycling Techniques
8.3 Technique Training: When and How?
8.4 Exercise Circuit
8.5 Small Games and Exercices With the Mountain Bike
9 Psychological Training
9.1 When Fear Gets in the Way
9.2 Build Motivation Using Realistic Goals
9.3 Mental Technique Training
9.4 Mental Race Preparation: Optimal Excitement
9.4.1 Relaxation Techniques
9.4.2 Marshalling Your Resources
9.5 The Right Mental Approach to Training
9.6 Recovery Through Relaxation
9.7 Mental Pre-Race Program
10 Mountain Bike Racing for Beginners
This book is intended for active mountain bikers, whether they take part in races or just do the sport to keep fit, and also for coaches, exercise instructors and physios in competitive mountain biking.
Unlike the many existing mountain bike books that deal with technique or bike repair, this one focuses exclusively on the training for the various performance factors in mountain biking. Cycling technique has already been sufficiently covered in other books and is only addressed in passing in chapter 8, Technique Training, which details the training methods used for practicing the correct techniques.
For a better understanding of the specialized chapters, chapter 2, The Physiology and Anatomy of the Mountain Biker, is particularly recommended for those readers who lack a basic grounding in anatomy and physiology, although subsequent chapters can be understood without this knowledge. Just as important as the physiological and anatomical basics are the basics of training methodology, which are explained at the beginning of each section in chapter 3.
The aim of the book is to enable the reader, once he has studied it in detail, to draw up his own training plan.
The detailed table of contents allows the reader to quickly locate specific topics so that the book can also be used as a reference.
The training plans presented in different chapters are just suggestions, each category designed for an average cyclist. Goals, available training time and personal fitness levels obviously vary from person to person, so it is essential to adapt or correct the plans to suit your own needs. The plans are not intended for elite cyclists, but for the majority of average mountain bikers, whether they do the sport competitively, as a hobby or to keep fit.
As described in chapter 3, the difficulty of training planning and execution increases as performance levels improve. At an elite level, there is a fine line between over- and undertraining, and details can make the difference between peak form and loss of form and, therefore, between victory and defeat.
The beginner should realize that when starting an endurance sport, training progress may be very rapid, but after six to nine months, performance improvement slows down. Several years of planning and regular and consistent training are required just to reach a good regional level, if the rider doesn’t already have an endurance background from another sport. This is true for all endurance sports, not just mountain biking.
It is even more difficult in road racing, which is mentioned when the training methods overlap. The races with a peloton lack the individual timing factor of a mountain bike race or a triathlon. Beginners must, as a rule, drop out of the race if they fall behind the peloton, but in mountain biking it is more or less every man for himself.
When in 1974 the first enthusiasts, notably Gary Fisher and Tom Ritchey, started riding down the mountains around Mount Tamalpais near San Francisco on old, classic cruisers, they had no idea of the boom that would follow with the invention of the mountain bike. A little later, these enthusiasts added gears to their bikes, thus creating the first genuinely off-road mountain bikes. Now they could not only ride down the mountains, but go back up again under their own steam. At the end of the 1970s, the first mountain bikes were produced in large quantities in sunny California. Almost immediately afterward, the first industrial production centers were moved to Southeast Asia, and thanks to greater quantities and lower prices, mountain bikes also took the European market by storm. The modern components giant Shimano also underwent a boom thanks to countless technical mountain bike innovations.
The first mountain bike races on Mount Tamalpais were downhills with a mass start, and cross-country and uphill races were soon added. In 1990, the sport of mountain biking was officially recognized by the world association, the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale), and the first World Cup was launched in 1991. Prior to this, from 1987 to 1990, there had been three years of two competing World Championships organized by two associations.
In addition to the above-mentioned races, you can also enter dual slaloms and various trial, fun and stunt competitions as well as speed biking races, in which speed records are attempted.
The development of the mountain bike has not only had an impact on competition, but also on health, leisure and hobby activities. Cycling has experienced a boom that shows no sign of tailing off. In fact, the bicycle as transportation is even increasing in popularity due to environmental and traffic problems.
Cruisers were the forerunners of mountain bikes.
Mountain biking’s all-terrain suitability allows riders to find their own path off the beaten track. It appeals to the spirit of discovery in all of us. It is exciting to explore an area that you have previously only traveled through by car and find hidden areas of natural beauty. The slower speed of the mountain bike allows you to really get close to nature on small trails and paths away from the busy roads where you can explore and actively experience beautiful countryside.
As greater distances can be covered by bike than on foot, even remote places can be reached in a day. You can stop at any time to rest, look around and enjoy the view. On long rides, which may even push you to the limit of your performance, in the perfect and back-to-basics environment you may rediscover forgotten feelings such as hunger and thirst. The feeling of sinking exhausted onto your bed after a hard day’s cycle is another undeniable highlight of a new attitude to life.
As well as all these rather obvious attractions, we can also add the thrill of a fast downhill ride and the feeling of gliding–similar to skiing–that the biker always rediscovers in the mountains. The difficulty of riding down a narrow trail against the resistance of gravity and centrifugal force, or using all one’s strength and skill to negotiate a steep incline, are sensations that excite bikers and keep them coming back for more.
Playing with gravity is particularly fascinating for youngsters, who are unfortunately less and less excited by cross-country racing with its harsh training demands, and who prefer to endlessly practice stunts and tricks. Jumps over natural obstacles and DIY ramps, fast downhill rides in disused quarries and bomb craters and trial manoeuvers over old cars and on steps cast a magical charm over young bikers. They invest all their pocket money in the newest parts and the right gear and spend the whole day on their bikes with no desire to go racing at all.
The sales figures for mountain bikes show clearly that the sport of mountain biking is definitely not just for elite racers. Only a small fraction of the bikes purchased are used for racing; the overwhelming majority is used for everyday off- and on-road riding.
Off-road mountain biking is a great sport for families with children because they can experience nature without being endangered by traffic. Driving often for miles at the weekend with the bikes on the car roof instead of riding there by bike is not ideal. Even right next to cities there are usually great locations that can be directly accessed by bike.
The environment should be respected, and mountain bikers should remain on tracks and paths to avoid disturbing the vegetation cover and wild animals in their shelters.
Mountain biking is a stimulating activity for mind and body as a keep-fit and rehab sport. The high number of gears on mountain bikes makes it easy to select the correct exercise intensity. Biking is also demanding in terms of coordination. Longer rides at low intensity on relatively flat terrain are an experience that every keep-fit cyclist can handle. An upright, but not stiff, sitting position and, if possible, a suspension fork or a full suspension bike will considerably enhance the comfort while riding.
The mountain racing scene has evolved from its initial stages when it was dominated by ex-racing cyclists and enthusiasts, and nowadays many mountain bikers are completely new to the sport.
Since the introduction of the World Cup, the sport has become very professional and more and more commercialized.
There are certainly no other sports that are as physically and mentally exhausting as a cross-country race over a tough course. Just being part of a mass start and the tension of jostling for a good starting position make your pulse race. During the race you are constantly riding at your performance limit, you are overtaken by other riders, you overtake some riders yourself, you stop yourself from being overtaken, and you may fall and try to ride through technically demanding passages as safely and as fast as possible. To succeed even at a regional level, you must have a lot of training under your belt, a fair amount of natural talent and, above all, be highly motivated to work hard and suffer in training.
The performance level in cross-country racing was really low from the early to mid- 1980s, so that almost anyone could take part in international races, apart from a few elite riders. Today, though, a broad, high-level elite with a professional approach to the sport has formed and explores every opportunity to succeed.
New young riders appear on the World Cup scene every year, dominate the racing scene for a short time and then disappear for a while. Most of these riders started out on the roads and are or were at least national-level road cycle racers.
Competitive mountain biking is now taken up by the first pure mountain bikers, meaning those who have not come to the sport via road cycling. However, in order to be able to keep up with the world’s best, these riders also need to take part in road races and tours.
If we consider the professionalizing process initiated and forced by the World Cycling Association, which is so damaging to the sport at the lower levels of competition, it is noteworthy that in mountain biking performances are generally improving.
Once certain mountain bike races become so lucrative that they can compete with the classic road cycling races, strong road pros with thousands of racing miles in their legs will definitely also participate in these cross-country races, and as long as they can manage the technical aspect of the courses and train to race over shorter distances, they will always prevail over the current mountain bikers.
A similar phenomenon is noticeable in the sport of track cycling, which opened to professionals at the Olympic Games and World Championships. Suddenly, in the individual and team endurance disciplines and point races, the pros pulled away from the existing professional amateurs, setting incredible new world records in the process. This was and is possible because they were accustomed to events such as the great tour races, which require a completely different performance potential than would be possible in amateur cycling. A similar development is very likely to occur in mountain biking in the near future.
In the technical disciplines such as downhill, dual slalom and the different trial races, this development will not take place as they require other abilities rather than endurance and strength. Cycling technique and coordination must be trained equally intensively but are more strongly linked than endurance and strength to the rider’s physical talent. It is usually not possible to make a trial rider out of a rider with poor coordination skills, whereas a merely average cross-country rider can go on to be very successful after years of well-planned training. In the technical disciplines, performance progress is increasingly dependent on equipment innovation and is often the limiting factor, at least in downhill and dual slalom.
For an individual with little endurance background, mountain biking will trigger certain changes in the body. The purpose of these changes is to adapt the body to increased performance demands. In addition to visible changes, such as more defined muscles or weight loss, a series of other more subtle adaptation processes take place, which increase the performance level of the body’s complex system.
For a mountain biker who takes his hobby seriously, learning as much about the body as possible should be a fundamental requirement because it enables him to do the sport he loves. An understanding and awareness of the body are becoming less and less emphasized in a time of computer-controlled training, and an unavoidable consequence of this is that many elite athletes overtrain until their bodies break down.
This chapter presents the anatomical and physiological basics relevant to the endurance sport mountain biking. It also looks at the adaptation processes caused by endurance training and should help the mountain biker to understand the physical processes, injuries and also performance improvement. This knowledge will also provide a basic understanding of training and all associated factors.
There is not enough room to explore these topics in great detail, but interested readers can always consult good anatomy and physiology books to find more in-depth descriptions.
The body’s adaptation process is divided into two phases. During the first phase, at low training volumes and intensities (i.e., at grass roots and rehab level), there is just a functional adaptation that is characterized by an improved metabolism and a corresponding increase in the economy of the cardiovascular system.
The second adaptation phase is dimensional adaptation, during which the size of the internal organs changes.
Regular, long-term endurance training leads to an adaptation process in the heart that results in what is known as athlete’s heart, characterized by an increase in size and a resulting drop in heart rate. This adaptation process is a result of the faster metabolism, especially in the muscles, in which increased oxygen and nutritional requirements can only be met by a greater blood circulation, requiring a more efficient heart. While an untrained heart weighs about 10.6 ounces (300 g), that of an endurance athlete can weigh up to 17.6 ounces (500 g). This increase in weight is accompanied by an increase in size. From about 800 ml for men and 500 ml for women, heart size can increase up to 900–1200 milliliters, and in rare cases up to 1500 milliliters. The largest hearts can be found in road racing cyclists and are the result of their often extreme endurance training loads.
Fig. 2.1: Anatomy and the cardiac cycle
At maximum effort, the untrained individual attains a cardiac output of about 20 liters, while someone with endurance training can attain values of over 30 liters. The maximum heart rate is usually calculated by the formula 220 – age, which should be treated as an approximate figure and is therefore practically useless at elite level. There is more on the determining and importance of maximum heart rate in chapter 3.
A clear indicator of athlete’s heart is a lowered heart rate from about 60–70 (70–80 for women) bpm for the untrained athlete to 40–50 bpm at high performance level. At pro level, resting heart rates of below 40 bpm are common and may occasionally be as low as 30 bpm.
Training should never just stop completely once your mountain biking career is over, as this can cause the heart to suffer potentially dangerous training withdrawal symptoms.
The heart’s function is illustrated in figure 2.1.
The advantages of athlete’s heart:
• greater efficiency
• the same performance can be achieved with a lower heart rate lower resting and working heart rate, which protects the heart (comparable to lower revs in a car)
• economizing the circulatory system
• other positive physical adaptation processes take place during the development of athlete’s heart
Oxygen-rich blood is sent round the body via the aorta, the arteries and the arterioles. The arterioles and capillaries of the muscles are actively constricted at rest, thereby preventing unnecessary blood supply to the muscles because at rest other organs require the blood (e.g., gastro-intestinal tract, kidneys, liver).
When a person starts to move, the blood vessels in the working muscles expand to allow more blood, and therefore more oxygen and nutrients, to flow into the muscle fibers. There is therefore a corresponding reduction in blood flow to the digestive system during exercise. The heart pumps harder to meet the muscles’ increased demand for blood.
The capillaries, the smallest blood vessels and also where oxygen exchange takes place (oxygen carbon dioxide, nutrients metabolites), are connected to the venules and ultimately to the veins, which join either the superior or inferior vena cava. The veins transport the blood back to the heart.
Fig. 2.2: Circulatory system
Fig. 2.3: Anatomy of the lungs
Oxygen-poor, carbon-dioxide-rich blood flows into the alveoli, the extremely thin-walled capillaries inside the lungs, where it releases its carbon dioxide and absorbs oxygen. This process is called external respiration, while the exchange of substances between the blood and the body cells is called internal respiration.
With the aid of the breathing muscles, primarily the diaphragm, at rest the lungs expand during inhalation, air flows down the trachea and bronchia into the pulmonary alveoli where the gaseous exchange takes place, and finally the carbon dioxide air escapes from the lungs (exhalation). Only during exercise (e.g., cycling)–when breathing is heavier–is the diaphragm breathing supported by chest breathing. A whole series of auxiliary respiratory muscles then reinforce the inhalation and exhalation processes and increase the energy requirement of the respiratory muscles up to 10% of the total energy requirement. During exercise, the oxygen requirement of these muscles increases to up to 15–20% of the maximum oxygen intake.
The 5–6 liters of blood in our bodies contain roughly 55% blood plasma (fluid) and about 45% various blood cells. Blood accounts for about 5–6% of our body-weight. Endurance training, such as mountain biking, increases blood volume by about 15%.
These are the main functions attributed to blood:
• transport (oxygen, carbon dioxide, nutrients, metabolic waste, hormones),
• the transportation and circulation of heat,
• clotting and
• immune defense.
1 mm3 of blood (i.e., a tiny amount) contains an incredible 4.5–5 million red blood corpuscles and about 5,000–8,000 white blood corpuscles for immune defense. 100 milliliters of blood also contains about 7 grams of protein. The red blood corpuscles (erythrocytes) are responsible for transporting oxygen and carbon dioxide.
The hematocrit value shows the volume percentage of blood cells in the blood. Hematocrit is now often used as proof of the commonly used doping agent (especially in road cycling) erythropoietin (EPO). EPO increases the production of red blood cells, which enables the athlete to absorb more oxygen. The result is not only a significantly higher performance level, but also a significantly higher risk of dying of deep vein thrombosis (blood clot). The sport of road cycling, where this doping method is still more commonly abused than in mountain biking, has already witnessed a series of sudden deaths that have been traced to the consumption of this hormone.
Maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max) is a very interesting physiological measurement, for it is the principal method of measuring endurance ability. VO2max is the greatest possible amount of oxygen—not breath—that the mountain biker can inhale under maximum loading conditions by his lungs into his blood.
The way to measure the VO2max accurately is on an exercise bike as part of a performance test. The normal value for an untrained person is roughly 3 l oxygen per minute and can be increased by appropriate training to 5–6 liters per minute. The VO2max is dependent on the athlete’s fitness, age, sex and weight. For example, a heavier person will need more oxygen for the same external performance than a lighter person, because he has more bodyweight to move. For this reason, the weight-related VO2max is used in order to obtain an accurate measurement of performance potential and to compare different athletes. The weight-related or relative VO2max gives the oxygen intake per kilogram bodyweight and minute. The pros can attain values of over 80 milliliters oxygen per minute and kilogram bodyweight; untrained 20–30-year-olds, on the other hand, only reach 40–45 millileters per kilogram bodyweight and minute. The maximum oxygen intake for an untrained male declines by 1% per year, while women only lose 0.8 milliliters per year. However, most sedentary individuals do not know that this process can be stopped and even reversed through endurance training. A fit 70-year-old can still attain the same results as an untrained 30-year-old.
Factors that influence VO2max (as well as age, weight and sex):
• the circulation transportation capacity (cardiac output),
• the oxygen transportation capacity of the blood,
• respiration and gas exchange in the lungs,
• blood supply to the muscles (capillarization) and
• intramuscular metabolism (enzyme loading).
The approximately 430 muscles in the human body normally account for between 40 and 45% of its bodyweight and require about 20% of its resting energy expenditure. During maximum effort (peak sporting performance), this value increases up to up to 90%. Muscles are able to convert chemical energy (nutrients) into mechanical energy (contraction), like an internal combustion engine.
A muscle or a muscle group never works alone during a movement but is always dependent on one or more antagonists, such as the hamstrings (agonists) and quadriceps (antagonists) in the leg work counter to each other.
All the major muscles in the human body are shown in figures 2.4–2.7. These illustrations should be referred to when reading chapters 4 (strength training) and 5 (stretching), which feature detailed descriptions of individual muscles. The comments on the illustrations contain the English and Latin muscle names and a mountain-bike-specific description of their functions.
Fig. 2.4: Diagram of the muscles of the torso, showing the main muscles (left: anterior view of the torso; right: posterior view of the torso)
1. mm. intercostales externi (external intercostals):auxiliary respiratory muscles used for chest (thoracic) breathing.
2. m. sternocleidomastoideus (sternocleidomastoid or SCM):turns the head to the side (e.g., when looking around on the bike).
3. m. trapezius (trapezius):has three functional areas: it raises and supports the shoulders and stabilizes the shoulder blades; it raises the shoulders when you ride out of the saddle.
4. m. pectoralis major (pecs):pulls the arm toward the body; used in cycling eccentrically during strenuous downhill rides and concentrically when riding out of the saddle.
5. m. serratus anterior (serratus anterior):pulls the shoulder blades forward and allows the arm to be raised above the horizontal; slightly involved in shock absorption.
6. m. obliquus externus abdominis (obliques):lateral turning and bending of the torso; stabilizing the hips when cycling, supporting the pulling action when riding out of the saddle.
7. m. rectus abdominis (abs or “six pack”):bends the torso forwards, stabilizes the pelvis when pedaling; part of the muscle loop used in powerful pedaling.
8. m. transversus abdominis (TVA):helps to compress the ribs and viscera, providing thoracic and pelvic stability.
9. m. infraspinatus (infraspinatus):externally rotates the arm and stabilizes the shoulder joint; used in shock absorption on rough terrain; one of the four muscles of the rotator cuff.
10.m. teres major/minor:turn the arm outward and pull it toward the torso; used when riding uphill out of the saddle.
11.m. latissimus dorsi (lats):pulls raised arms down toward the body.
12.m. erector spinae (spinal erector):not illustrated; deep muscle that runs alongside the vertebral column; holds the back erect and straightens it; holds the back in place when pedaling.
13.mm. suboccipitales:deeper muscles, not illustrated, turn the head.
Fig. 2.5: Diagram of the muscles of the right arm–the most important muscles are named (left: posterior view with elbow; right: anterior view with elbow)
14.m. deltoideus (deltoid):different parts of the muscle raises the arm to the front, side and rear; used when riding out of the saddle uphill and in downhill racing.
15.m. triceps brachii (triceps):extends the arm at the elbow; important shock absorber in downhill riding, where it works eccentrically.
16.m. anconaeus (anconaeus):assists in the extension of the elbow; functions like the triceps.
17.mm. extensor carpi/digitorum:extends the wrist and the fingers; used to grip the handle bars and for shock absorption.
18.m. subscapularis (subscapularis):stabilizes the shoulder joint and turns the arm in toward the body.
19.m. coracobrachialis (coracobrachialis):raises the arm, stabilizes the shoulder joint during heavy loading.
20.m. biceps brachii (biceps):flexes the arm at the elbow; used when riding out of the saddle uphill and on the flat and also when seated.
21.m. brachioradialis (brachioradialis):flexes the arm at the elbow; used when riding uphill and also when seated.
22.m. palmaris longus (palmaris longus):finger flexor; used to grip the handlebar.
23.mm. flexor carpi/digitorum:finger and wrist flexor; mainly used concentrically to grip the handlebar.
Fig. 2.6: Diagram of the muscles of the front of the leg with the most important muscles named (right leg)
24.m. tensor fasciae latae (TFL):hip abductor muscle; used in the upward phase of the pedaling action.
25.m. rectus femoris (one of the four quad muscles):knee extensor and hip flexor; used concentrically in the downward phase of the pedaling action.
26.m. vastus lateralis (largest of the four quad muscles):extends and stabilizes the knee, also flexes the hips; used concentrically in the downward phase of the pedaling action.
27.m. iliopsoas (psoas):the strongest of the hip flexor muscles; part of the muscle loop used in vigorous pedaling.
28.m. pectineus (hip flexors):flexes the hip; used in the upward phase of the pedaling action.
29.m. adductor longus (adductor):adducts the thigh (i.e., brings the thigh closer to the middle sagittal plane of the body) and supports flexion.
30.m. sartorius (tailor’s muscle):hip flexor; turns the lower leg inward and the thigh outward; supports knee flexion.
31.m. vastus medialis (teardrop muscle, one of the quads):extends and stabilizes the knee joint, also hip flexor; used concentrically in the downward pedaling action.
32.mm. peronaeus longus/brevis:raise and evert (turn out) the foot; support the ankle extensors; solicited in the upward movement of the pedals before the upper “dead point” (pulling).
33.m. tibialis anterior (shin muscle):raises the foot; used in the upward movement of the pedals before the upper “dead point” (pulling).
34.m. extensor digitorum:extends the toes; used in the upward phase of the pedaling action (pulling).
Fig. 2.7: Diagram of the rear leg muscles with the most important muscles named (right leg)
35.m. adductor magnus:adductor of the thigh (i.e., pulls the thigh into the midline of the body) and extends the hips; used in the leg extension element of the pedaling cycle.
36.m. semitendinosus:knee flexor and hip extensor; particularly important in the flexion phase of the rear pedaling cycle.
37.m. gracilis:hip and knee flexor; used in the upward element of the pedaling action.
38.m. semimembranosus:knee flexor and hip extensor; particularly important in the flexion of the rear pedaling cycle.
39.m. gastrocnemius (calf muscle):ankle extensor and knee flexor; mainly used in downward pedaling action but also when pulling the pedal up.
40.m. glutaeus maximus (glutes):hip extensor; powerful supporter of the quadriceps in leg extension, front phase of the pedaling cycle.
41.m. tractus iliotibialis (iliotibial tract or band, IT band):not a muscle but a connective tissue, thickening or reinforcing the muscle fasciae surrounding and reinforcing the femur.
42.m. biceps femoris (long-head muscle):knee flexor and abductor; hip extensor, especially in the flexion phase of the rear pedaling cycle but also important as a hip extensor in the front pedaling cycle.
43.m. plantaris:insignificant role in the pedaling cycle.
44.m. soleus (calf):ankle extensor; solicited in pedaling action, supports the calf muscle.
45.tendo calcaneus (Achilles tendon):connects the muscles of the calf to the ankle.
There are basically two different types of muscle function: a) static and b) dynamic. Static means stationary, and in mountain biking these are the muscles that are responsible for maintaining posture. The muscles of the arm, the back of the neck and the back are responsible for holding the head and upper body in place when sitting still and, therefore, mainly work statically. The pedaling process on the other hand is a dynamic action, which means that the muscles actually shorten when they contract to overcome a load. The opposite, eccentric loading (yielding), takes place when landing after jumping off a wall when the legs must give, and although the muscles resist, they are still stretched (lengthening).
The exclusively concentric pedaling action in the principal leg muscles is why mountain bikers suffer from muscle soreness after riding an unfamiliar course (e.g., a cross-country race). The extensor muscles of the leg are vigorously stretched in the eccentric loading phase of the race (absorption of bodyweight), and the cyclist’s body is unaccustomed to this stretching. This causes microscopic muscle tears (microtrauma), which are the cause of muscle soreness. This is one reason why mountain bikers should also regularly undertake running training.
The muscles of the human body contain slow- and fast-twitch muscle fibers and a hybrid type. The slow, red muscle fibers are endurance fibers, and these fibers are mainly solicited during mountain biking (70–90%). Fast-twitch or white muscle fibers are thicker and tire more quickly and are more commonly found in speed-strength and speed athletes.
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